Upper South

January, 2006
Regional Report

Try African Violets

There is a reason that African violets have been so popular through the years: they're easy to grow and bloom profusely, even in winter, as long as they get some sunlight or artificial light. To keep the leaves from spotting, fill the plant saucer with lukewarm water and then drain it off after an hour or two. Include a water-soluble fertilizer, following manufacturer's directions. Create additional plants by propagating from leaf cuttings.

Prepare Tools and Garden Supplies

If all the tools and supplies weren't completely organized last fall, take some time to do it now before the spring rush begins. Sharpen and oil pruning shears and spades. If necessary, paint handles a bright color so they are easy to find in the garden. Take an inventory of seed-starting supplies. Make sure you have a soil mix specifically designed for seeds, which helps prevent a disease called damping-off.

Make a List and Check it Twice

Seed catalogs have been arriving since before the holidays, and it pays to order early so you get the varieties you want. Before you send the orders in, compare prices between companies and rethink whether you have ordered too much. Comparing prices and quantities takes time, but it is worth the effort. Be sure to compare either package weight or seed count per packet. Also compare shipping and handling fees. Don't forget to have fun, too, and order something you've never tried before.

Utilize Warm Days

Any time there is a warm spell, take advantage of it by going out into the garden. The time can be spent assessing areas and plantings so that plans can be made for the upcoming season. It's also a great time to get a head start on weeding, because certain weeds (especially chickweed and wild onions) thrive during the winter months. Removing them now keeps them from spreading and becoming even more of a nuisance as the hectic spring season arrives.

Check Perennials for Heaving

Alternating periods of warm and freezing temperatures can cause perennial roots to be pushed out of the ground, or heaved. Injury and potential death to the plant is the result. This particularly happens in areas with intermittent snow cover. Check plants at least every couple of weeks, and push any heaved ones back into the ground. Mulching around the plants helps to prevent heaving.

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